The latest title from Padraig Kenny, author of Tin and Pog was published by Macmillan on 17th September and features illustrations by Edward Bettison. The Monsters of Rookhaven tells an incredible middle grade story that will have readers empathising, questioning, debating, and left in awe of the adventure they have undertaken alongside Mirabelle, a character they will carry with them long after closing the book. I had the opportunity to interview Padraig about all things The Monsters of Rookhaven, and am delighted on behalf of the FCBG to share this with you.
– Can you describe The Monsters of Rookhaven in five words
Dark gothic fantasy with monsters.
– The story is set in World War Two, What is the significance, and what made you choose that time period?
I set it a few years after World War Two because I wanted to explore what it was like for characters who had lost family and friends and who had been scarred by the war. Also, rationing was still continuing, and it’s a part of the story that becomes a pressure point for at least one community in the novel.
– The Monsters of Rookhaven has the perfect balance of creepy and of humorous, adventure and drama, magic and mystery. How difficult was that to achieve?
I suppose it’s just a matter of handling tone, and tone is very very important to me. I think of it like music. It’s like having a major theme with a few different and contrasting notes underneath, and then I think it becomes a matter of balancing all those notes. And it’s all about the characters too. Each one has a different job in terms of tone also, like musicians in an orchestra. One might be a humorous figure, another might be dour, and then it’s a matter of playing them off against each other and creating certain moments and tones without losing focus on the overall tone.
– For those that have read and love your earlier titles Tin and Pog, could you explain how The Monsters of Rookhaven is different or similar.
It’s similar in the way all my novels are similar in that there almost always about family in some way, and I really like to write characters that are part of an unconventional family. I think it might be slightly darker than the other two. I wanted to go a bit further in terms of scares. I also very deliberately used viewpoint chapters, and in particular with Piglet I wanted to do viewpoint chapters that were in a different tense to the rest of the book so I could achieve a certain effect.
– The Monsters of Rookhaven is illustrated beautifully by Ed Bettison, do you have a favourite in the book?
The illustrations are fantastic, and it’s so hard to choose, but I suppose if I’m pushed there’s an illustration of a lone raven early in the book in which he seems to be glowering. I love it. It gives him real character.
– The book has been recommended for fans of Patrick Ness and Frances Hardinge – two equally incredible authors, who are your go to authors for books to read for pleasure?
I’m reading Susannah Clarke’s Piranesi at the moment and it’s wonderful. Her first novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell had a huge impact on me. I love Kevin Barry’s work because he does amazing things with language. I can go back to Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole books again and again for the sheer delight they still give me.
– There are some powerful emotions and messages to take from the book, is there a particular message you hope readers take away from reading The Monsters of Rookhaven?
I’m very wary of messages because I see myself as an entertainer first and foremost, but I suppose I’m a little contradictory because I like there to be a theme which you could call a message. I suppose the message of this is not to other people, and to be wary of people who try to turn you against other people for their alleged “differences.” It’s about having empathy, and being cautious of those who don’t.
– Are you currently writing, and if so could you give us any insight as to what we can anticipate next?
I’ve just finished the sequel to The Monsters of Rookhaven which is due out next September. It expands the universe a bit more, and there are some new characters. It starts in a way that surprised even me, and we might also discover something new and surprising about characters we’ve already met. I’ve also got a few new ideas that I’m working on. I like to keep the creative momentum going.
The Monsters of Rookhaven is available to purchase from all good booksellers. Look out for the sequel, out next year.
Any opinions expressed may not truly represent those of the FCBG.